Archive for December, 2009


A Jon Gnagy Christmas

At some point during the Christmas season each year I think about the man pictured above. His name is Jon Gnagy and he was my childhood hero. Jon had a huge impact on me when I was growing up. Jon Gnagy hosted a weekly television show in which he taught drawing lessons using the basic shapes of the ball, cube, cylinder, and cone.

I discovered his program while I was in second grade and watched it each Saturday morning when our television reception was good. I seem to recall Gnagy’s program being telecast on Channel 4, WTAE, out of Pittsburgh, and the signal did not always reach our home clearly in Toronto, Ohio. And, if someone in our neighborhood was running an electric saw or other power equipment, forget it! Pure fuzz! However, when the signal was clear I was riveted to Jon’s every word and every stroke of his drawing tool.  I would lay on the floor with my pencils and paper in front of me, however I would be glued to the television and unable to draw until the program was over. I was amazed at Jon’s ability to create the illusion of space through his use of light and shadow.

Just before entering third grade I asked my mother if I could switch from the Catholic school I was attending and attend public school. I was a shy, somewhat backward student and the nuns attempted to correct my flaws with a ruler on numerous occasions. I did make the change to public school. However, a few weeks into the fall semester my mother told me that since I was no longer going to Catholic school, I would now have to take Cathecism classes on Saturday morning. These classes were held at the same time as Jon Gnagy’s television program. This was before the invention of the VCR, resulting in a total bummer!

Each Christmas I hoped for a Jon Gnagy “Learn to Draw” set. I was thirteen years old before my wish was finally answered. Under the tree that Christmas was my Jon Gnagy Studio Set with pencils, watercolors, and I believe, pastels. I was pumped! Even the smell of the art supplies in that box was invigorating! To this day, I still love that smell. The smell of a kneaded eraser can take me back to my childhood in an instant! And I still enjoy getting new art materials, be it a brush, paints, some sharpies, or even some tin or found objects. It’s great!

I had a solo exhibition at Ohio University Eastern in February 2009. The title of that exhibition was “Jon Gnagy was My Homeboy”.

My copy of Learn to Draw by Jon Gnagy.

Jon Gnagy’s grand daughter has a website honoring the television artist and it includes a few of Jon’s televised drawing lessons. Check it out!